Online help-seeking for mental health

Seeking help is an important step in addressing mental health difficulties. Evidence suggests that positive help-seeking experiences contribute to an increased likelihood of future help-seeking and achieving improved outcomes. However, help-seeking is a complex process. Together with Claudette Pretorius, a post-doc and former PhD student with the HCI@UCD group, we are exploring how technology can support better help seeking experiences for young people experiencing mental health difficulties.

Key Collaborators: Claudette Pretorius


Pretorius, C., Chambers, D. and Coyle, D., 2019. Young people‚Äôs online help-seeking and mental health difficulties: Systematic narrative review. Journal of medical Internet research, 21(11), p.e13873. (doi)

Pretorius, C., Chambers, D., Cowan, B. and Coyle, D., 2019. Young people seeking help online for mental health: cross-sectional survey study. JMIR mental health, 6(8), p.e13524. (doi)

Pretorius, C., McCashin, D., Kavanagh, N. and Coyle, D., 2020, April. Searching for mental health: a mixed-methods study of young people’s online help-seeking. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-13). (doi)


Our work began with a systematic narrative review of the barriers and facilitators young people experiences when seeking help online. We also gained a deeper understanding of young people’s experiences through a large-scale cross-sectional survey. Building on this, and through co-design with young people, we have developed and evaluated a series of interactive help-seeking prototypes and provide guidelines for the design of online help seeking tools.

Our research has emphasised the importance of four key design considerations: connectedness, accessible information, personalisation and a respect for autonomy, and immediacy. From a theoretical perspective we have developed a model of online help-seeking that combines previous theories of offline help-seeking, with needs based motivational theories, and information seeking theories. A formal paper on this theoretical work is currently in preparation.

This Twitter thread by Claudette provide a nice overview of her PhD work.